Sarah Clark has been in the influencing business since before there was an influencing business. Her career as a fashion editor is unimpeachable – think Marie Claire and Glamour, where she honed her covetable high-low style and laid-back feminine aesthetic. But it was on maternity leave with twins 13 years ago that she found herself back on the shop floor, not the fashion rails, looking for childrenswear that reflected her style. “I can scan a shop in literally two minutes and pull out the one good thing,” she says. It is a super power and after months of passing on her finds to her friends and them telling her to start a blog, she did, and Little Spree (since rebranded to Douceur in December 2022) was born, on the web and then Instagram.
After her maternity leave, Clark decided to go freelance but remained committed to finding the best kids’ kit out there, for her growing army of faithful mothers. They in turn began to clamour for some glamour of their own, she says: “All the mums kept saying ‘please do the same for us’.” When she did, everything fell into place. Clark joined an affiliates programme, Rewards Style, and slowly “it started going from literal pocket money to proper money”. There were brand collaborations with the likes of Boden and she was still doing freelance styling and art directing – and then COVID-19 hit.
She says: “The styling and the art directing fell off a cliff. Obviously, no one was shooting. It was my main income: Little Spree was doing well but it wasn’t quite there. I thought ‘I need to go for it. Everyone’s at home. No one can go to a shop. You’ve got an online shopping platform, it’s now or never’ and it just went crazy.”
Clark hasn’t looked back and is now turning her hand at designing. She recently celebrated her second sell-out jumpsuit collaboration with Iris Fashion, which launched last month. Clark has a history with Iris Fashion, which in the early days of their relationship had several boutiques in London, a small in-house label alongside a covetable collection of brands such as Isabel Marant, Vanessa Bruno and Sessun. She says: “I thought their buy was really clever.”
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She hosted an event at the Chiswick store in 2017 and “it was mobbed”. She featured their product on her Instagram page, including a jumpsuit called the Sasha from their design team, which she adored. In January 2020, Clark signed with the formidable Lucy Owen at Lucy Owen Talent and during the course of a lunch with the Iris team, Annie Pollet and Jo Staveley, Owen said: “You should do a jumpsuit together.” And that was that. Clark said it made sense because it meant little risk for both sides; the jumpsuit was established so the brand felt safe, and for Clark: “I didn’t feel like it was sticking my neck up too far because I wasn’t coming up with something from scratch.” Not that she wasn’t heavily involved in the process – something she adored and she says “I’m very particular” – but it meant there was a template for her to work her magic on. And it did. When she turned up on launch day at 9am in April 2022, the shop girls were excitedly telling her that they had already sold dozens of jumpsuits online. “Is that good?” asked Clark, ever modest, “And they were like ‘yes, that’s amazing. It only went online an hour ago’.” The black denim jumpsuit sold out in 48 hours and the brand immediately asked for a reorder, because of the length of the waiting list – it is rumoured Kate Moss loves hers.
Influencer collaborations are nothing new but Clark is mindful of creators who just lend their names to things, an approach that is not for her. “It’s a bit boring and lazy,” she says, and would mean nothing to her audience, whom she is passionate about not letting down. She says: “There are a lot of people who have stuck around from the beginning. Their babies have grown up with my babies. I’ve got to know the people who message me regularly. I think there’s a real trust there. People know that I am not going to be peddling s**t on my site.”
While she was thrilled about the jumpsuit selling out, she was never motivated by the money. She says: “Lucy set up the contract and it was a percentage of the sales. So obviously, the motivation you’d argue would be to sell out, and obviously that was thrilling to us. But it wasn’t the money. What motivated me was that I was just so excited to be there.” She adds: “Ten years ago that would never have been an opportunity for me, because even within magazines you’re very much ‘stay in your lane’.”
It is this kind of authenticity, and her connection to her audience, that meant that she was cautious about designing another jumpsuit with Iris. She says with typical honesty: “You can’t, on the one hand, be saying it’s £185 for this jumpsuit, it’s an investment and talk about longevity and then say, ‘Oh, here’s another one. Why don’t you buy this one as well in two months’ time?’ That would annoy me as a consumer.”
After a considered amount of time, therefore, a pale blue denim version came out and sold out in less than 24 hours, some sizes within one hour of launch. Extraordinary for a second version, priced at £185, during a cost-of-living crisis in March 2023 – “It literally blew my mind,” she says. Again, it is all to do with the trust her followers have in her, built over 13 years of consistent connection. Of her Instagram, where she has 37,000 followers, she says there’s a huge difference between “just putting something on and taking a picture and actually taking a picture of yourself in something that you’re really wearing”. She says that she had a sample of the second jumpsuit early on, which meant she had been pictured wearing it multiple times. “I went to Paris in October for my dad’s birthday with my family. I took it with me and I wore it and I was wearing it and loving it. So it was kind of a drip feed as well.” Importantly, it signalled to her followers that she was sincere about the product, and they responded. She is her first consumer, and “that’s what I always keep in mind with everything I do. I just think ‘if I like it, chances are the people reading, watching, following, they’re going to like it too’.”
There are a lot of key elements from this collaboration that have given it it’s impressive alchemy – an existing relationship between brand and creator, a creator with serious credibility who is protective of her audience, a product that authentically represents each contributor. And it has given Clark a new set of wings – next up is a collection of beautiful quilts and cushions with lifestyle brand Dilli Grey, which went live on 20 April. I predict a riot – an elegant one of course.
By Emilie McMeekan, CORQ features director. Picture credit: Douceur via Instagram
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